The Scottish government has been criticised for leaving farmers and crofters in an ‘information vacuum’ over future support options.
Discussions on Scotland’s proposed Agriculture Bill is now underway without all the desired information being made available, NFU Scotland said.
This is despite ‘repeated requests’ for the Scottish government to put potential future agricultural support options on the table for consideration as part of the debate.
The Agriculture Bill is seen as a critical step on the road to a new Scottish agricultural policy, which will fundamentally change support for farming and crofting.
So far, the farming industry has been critical about the lack of detail, with NFU Scotland saying farmers were not part of the consultation process.
Industry groups have continued to push the Scottish government to fill that void and put potential eligible support options into the public domain.
The union made that specific request in person when Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon and her officials attended the NFU Scotland board meeting earlier this month.
Following the meeting, NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said farmers were being asked to discuss issues affecting the industry while in an ‘information vacuum’.
“It remains hugely frustrating that the Scottish government has yet to set out any clear options as to how any new powers created by the Bill will put food production at the heart of delivering all the benefits that active agricultural businesses will be asked to deliver.”
He said NFU Scotland had been ‘unequivocal’ that the new powers must be used to target future direct support at active farming and crofting.
Support must provide financial stability through post-Brexit turbulence and severe market volatility, Mr Kennedy said, as well as to reward actions that improve productivity.
He added: “Only with the buy-in of farmers can Scottish government turn the dry legislation of a new Agriculture Bill into practices that deliver for food, climate and nature but we need to know now what those options look like.”
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said the government was seeking to support farmers, crofters and land managers to “produce more high quality and sustainable food”.
“The fact is that high quality food production is very much a part of meeting our net zero targets and dealing with the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
“We have ambitious targets and right across the agriculture sector we have the talent and skills to meet our aims.
“I would urge people from all walks of life to get involved and make their views known – these issues affect us all.”
The Scottish government’s consultation on the Agriculture Bill is open for responses until 21 November.
In response, NFU Scotland will hold an online webinar for farmers and crofters on Thursday at 7pm to discuss the government’s proposals.